In this Buhari era, aspects of the news media, especially social media, tend to hyperventilate on President Muhammadu Buhari because this generates a buzz that attracts attention to blogs. Olisa Metuh, the Peoples Democratic Party mouthpiece, seems to know this and thus never misses an opportunity to weigh-in negatively on every bit of what Buhari says. Yes, what Buhari says is news and therefore could be reported or reacted to by PDP. That’s not the issue. The issue is the spin the PDP, through Metuh, continually puts to each and every of Buhari’s pronouncements; and then the harsh words that are quickly purveyed against anybody that defends the President, including most notably the President’s Special Adviser on media, Femi Adesina – who, I might add, is merely doing his job, and yes – doing it well. No apologies.
So, what is the news? The news is that Buhari spoke truth to Nigerians, to Indians, to the world – on the true state of affairs in Nigeria, and the corrupt-ridden system that is the legacy of the previous administrations in the country. My hunch is that vast majorities of Nigerians don’t have any issues with the President’s candour, even though expressed overseas. Why? Because, it’s no secret to foreigners, and it’s one of the main reasons Buhari was elected; and Nigerians and foreigners are not the three mythical monkeys – see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil.
Rather, it appears that Nigerians prefer, in the interim, to be pained by the truth than, later, be again damned by the spins and docility that were the order of the day until recently. Yet, the PDP would not have any of that; it will rather the President played ostrich to Nigerians, to Indians, to the world. And when Femi Adesina, in his constitutional role as the President’s spokesman, did his job by pushing-back against the spin, a few partisans that still lived in the immediate past came out to traduce Mr Adesina. That’s taking opposition politics to a new low. As Americans would put it: It’s not about Buhari or Adesina; it’s about fighting corruption, stupid.
Pray! What’s new in the President’s public remarks on corruption? Speaking about corruption in Nigeria or abroad is not new and it’s no longer news. It’s like speaking about piracy in China or ISIS in the Arab world. What’s new and news is what is going to be done about corruption; and that’s what the President spoke of in India. The purpose of such candor, I assume, is to give comfort to Indians and to the rest of the world that Buhari, unlike his predecessors, will take no prisoners. Anybody who understands the dynamics that drive foreign investments knows too well that it’s such ramrod candor and assurances that propel foreign-investor confidence; not the defense of the indefensible, as Olisa Metuh/PDP had suggested.
The way it’s going about it, PDP might have as well told Obama to have denied the Meltdown, Putin to deny the troubled rubble, Greek to deny its persistent recession, the Arab world to deny ISIS; and all nations that have issues to deny them all – in the guise of attracting foreign investors. Such a path will be counterproductive as it will portray such nations as dishonest, if not a clowns-in-denial.
Better yet, it appears Team PDP’s slick PR machine has done a masterful job in misdirecting news coverage of the President’s overseas public remarks by feeding the public a daily dose of negative spins and sham interpretations, presumably with the intent of dogging the President and his handlers with distractions. If the opposition believes that this the way to behave in opposition, permit me to say that it’s wrong. The only fair way to be in opposition is to offer alternatives that make sense. That’s exactly what the APC did that helped it most to defeat the PDP by popular will (not by rigging) in 2015. If I might ask: What would have been PDP’s reaction if Buhari had, while in India, instead announced a general amnesty on corruption, or even flatly denied existence of it? I recoil at the thought, as the party’s conventional wisdom seems to suggest, that it would have been rooting for the President.
Apparently, the way PDP is handling its role in opposition suggests that it has not learnt any lessons from its previous spell in power. The sad truth is that from the inception of its unprecedented run on federal power, PDP managed to alienate Nigerians by going to sleep on a helluva of issues Nigerians considered hot-button and crucial to public policy. The number one is corruption in all its garden-varieties – whether it’s a plain-sight stealing and heist of public funds, or putting lots of yams before the goat. It therefore challenges commonsense that PDP is still in the same old world, which is probably why it rankles the party each time the President waxes strong against corruption; and why Buhari’s famous Indian declaration became infamous with the PDP.
In the past, Nigerians were finessed by platitudes, pleasantries, and lip-service on dealing with corruption. But that was then. Now, Buhari is in-charge and he knows too well that the mandate he received was largely due to his promises to deal with corruption. We should not as soon forget that when Buhari was pushing against corruption on each campaign stump, Nigerians, Indians and the world were listening with much approval. So, what’s new in the President’s declaration in India? Nothing, except the foreign investor-comfort and the global goodwill such candour is surely to bring in time to come.
It’s reasonable to wager that former President Jonathan might be regretting not taking on corruption as aggressively as Buhari is now doing. Metuh’s thesis that Jonathan defended Nigeria against charges of corruption does not serve Jonathan’s legacy well, as it reinforces the notion that the PDP is still unrepentant on the main reason it lost power to APC. When PDP travels this path, Nigerians suspect that the party’s main pre-occupation is all about changing the trajectory of the public (domestic and international) consciousness on fighting corruption. Plus, it makes the PDP appear as representing the very vested interests that brought Nigeria to such a sorry pass. Such posturing doesn’t look good for the party as Nigeria winds down to mid-term elections in Kogi and Bayelsa and the general election in 2019. To be sure, it appears at first glance that the public trusts the the present government on this issue of corruption more than it trusts all the previous administrations, and it’s nothing personal.
Certainly, post-Jonathan Nigeria has seen a a noticeable damper on corruption – at its very roots, thanks to Buhari’s famed ‘body language’. And the truth is that PDP’s misguided push-backs against the President on this corruption matter cannot cancel out the past, precisely because PDP has never really gotten round to a full reckoning, nor commensurate contrition or amends – of the incalculable damage done under its watch. To be sure, firing-up domestic anxieties about Buhari’s characteristic candor, merely because he exhibited it on a foreign soil, helps to reinforce the President’s credibility and may as soon stoke a ‘rally around the leader’ mentality amongst Nigerians. That may just be the tunic that will produce a new bounce in Buhari’s incipient strides on fighting corruption.
. Ejimakor wrote in from [email protected] 0803 265 1660 (texts only).